There may be plenty of abandoned buildings in the New York metro area, but there aren’t too many that the public is permitted to access. Every now and then, though, your curiosity is satisfied! For example, did you know you can roam around in some abandoned buildings at a former Long Island Gold Coast estate? Well…you can! Read on to take a wander through the woods at the Welwyn Preserve with me, and learn how you can visit this fantastic place yourself.
The 204-acre Welwyn Preserve is located at the site of the former Welwyn Estate, owned by oil industrialist Harold Pratt (son of oil magnate Charles Pratt, who was also the founder of Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute). Welwyn is located in Glen Cove, NY, which is part of what’s known as the Gold Coast of Long Island.
The Gold Coast was the inspiration for The Great Gatsby and is known for its wealthy residents and all of their fabulous mansions. Harold Pratt and his seven siblings all had fantastic estates on the Gold Coast, several of which you can still visit today (and they’re conveniently all right next to one another!)
If you’ve been following along for a while, you may recall that last year we visited the Webb Institute, which was the former home of Harold’s brother, Herbert Pratt. Their sister Lydia’s house is just to the east of Welwyn and available to rent on Airbnb (my in-laws actually hosted our 2018 Thanksgiving dinner there – it’s gorgeous!) The Mansion at Glen Cove is next to Lydia’s and was owned by their brother, John Pratt. Their brother Frederic’s old estate is now a rehab center, and, interestingly, their brother George’s old estate, Killenworth, is now owned by Russia.
But back to Harold’s estate, Welwyn. The mansion was built in 1906 in the Georgian style, and the family of Frederick Law Olmsted (known for his design of Central Park) was contracted to do the landscaping. Pratt and his wife, Harriet, lived at Welwyn until they both died (he in 1939 and she in 1969), and the property was then passed on to Nassau County, according to the Pratts’ wishes.
Unfortunately, the county didn’t do much with the estate for more than 20 years. As a result, much of the property began to deteriorate, including several greenhouses, outbuildings, and carriage houses, all of which can still be found behind the mansion. In the 90s, it was decided that the mansion should be restored in order to house the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County, which is the current occupant of the mansion today.
Sadly, though, the cost to restore the rest of the buildings on the estate was far too high, and so now they sit in a complete state of disrepair, taken over by weeds and trees. You can, however, hike throughout the preserve’s property, and visitors have full access to the abandoned buildings. Nowadays, they’re completely covered with graffiti, and the New York Adventure Club even holds a graffiti workshop there!
Trails and Beach
When you arrive at Welwyn, there are are several different trails you can choose. There is a paved path off of the parking lot that will take you down to the private beach. You can also walk toward the mansion and over to the left to the beautiful gardens, with another trail leading off from there. This trail will take you down into the woods, and you can walk through the woods all the way to the beach or you can connect up with the paved trail and take that the rest of the way down. We went with the latter option ourselves.
Glen Cove is on Long Island Sound, so the beach offers a sound view rather than an ocean view, but it’s no less beautiful! It wasn’t an especially warm day when we visited, and it was VERY windy, so we didn’t linger down there for long. However, I can imagine that it must be a lovely spot to sit and enjoy on a more beautiful day. We saw several other people out walking and a brave group of folks fishing off one of the jetties.
We walked east along the beach toward the other end of the preserve and picked up a trail there to start working our way back up the hill. Once you’re back in the woods, you’ll come across a salt marsh, which seemed to be an excellent spot for birding if that’s your thing. We continued back uphill and encountered a little pond, as well as several streams, some of which didn’t have the best bridges for crossing. We had read there would be bridges, but in most spots, it was really more like a plank of wood. Bring your boots!
Since we visited in springtime, everything was green and lush, but some of the trails were already starting to get pretty wild and overgrown. I suspect trying to walk through here in the summertime is an adventure, and I’d highly recommend an excellent tick repellant once it gets warmer. Nonetheless, if you want to find the abandoned buildings from the beach, you’ll need to persevere and hop those streams and push through the overgrowth!
Or…if you’re not interested in wandering through the woods much at all, you can always take the easy route and just go straight to the abandoned buildings from the parking lot. We didn’t realize this was an option and enjoyed our stroll nonetheless, but if you’re in a rush, this is the way to go!
If you take the direct route, you won’t have any trouble finding the abandoned buildings. If you take the beach route, you might need to wander a bit longer. Fortunately, we heard teenagers yelling and laughing loudly the day we visited, so we assumed that if we followed the noise we’d find the buildings.
And finally, we reached the greenhouses! At first, we didn’t even realize that we had found them because, from the beach path, you’ll walk into what basically looks like an old garage. There’s rusty metal and garbage inside, lots of broken doors and planks of wood, and some really cool old furnaces (one of which has been named Baby Oven by a graffiti artist.)
We walked through the building to the other side and followed the path uphill some more. Once we stopped and looked behind us, we discovered the old greenhouses are actually situated up on top! From the looks of it there were about 3 or 4 and what’s left of them has been completely covered in graffiti. We also found a couple benches where someone did some decorating. Perhaps this is where the teenagers hang out???
Continuing up the hill, you’ll come across the other abandoned buildings. One is directly across from the mansion and is in very poor shape, so we didn’t go anywhere near that. The roof looks like it could collapse at any time, and part of the floor already had. It still had some great old wash tubs inside which makes me wonder if this was a garage or perhaps where they used to do laundry. The remains of an old fence are here as well, and I loved looking at everything and trying to imagine how grand this place must have been back in the day.
The Preserve is beautiful, and the abandoned greenhouses were a treat to see. If you find yourself in Glen Cove or the Gold Coast, the Welwyn Preserve is well worth a visit. We probably spent less than an hour there but could have easily stayed to explore much longer if it had been a nicer (and warmer!) day. We also didn’t get a chance to go into the Holocaust center, but give yourself a few hours if you’d like to check everything out during your own visit.
What do you think? Is this the kind of place you’d like to visit?
Or have you already been to Welwyn yourself? Let me know what you think about this unique and interesting place!
Plan Your Own Visit
Where to Go
- Welwyn Preserve: 100 Crescent Beach Rd, Glen Cove, NY 11542
When to Go
- Anytime! The Preserve is open daily from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm
- If you want to leave your own mark at the Welwyn Preserve, check out the New York Adventure Club’s calendar to see when their next graffiti workshop takes place.
Tips for Visiting
- The Preserve isn’t that big and there are trail markers within the woods, so it’s pretty safe to wander without much fear of getting lost. The beach is downhill and the mansion is uphill. If you go in either one of those directions you shouldn’t have any problems. If all else fails, look for the paved trail that leads to the beach and it will get you back and forth between the beach and the parking lot. We didn’t have a map and kinda enjoyed just wandering to see if we could find things on our own, but if you really like a bit more direction, check out this trail map.
- To go directly to the abandoned buildings, take the trail immediately to the right of the mansion.
- If you want to visit the beach, the most direct route is the paved path next to the parking lot.
- There’s a lot of overgrowth on the trails and several streams to be crossed. I’d recommend long pants and boots if you plan to walk the trails.
- If you visit in the summer, I’d also highly recommend a tick repellant!